“I don't know if I want to talk about it,” Crosby said with a smile after knocking on the wooden bench seat in the visitors' dressing room. “It's been good. The game is fast, and you always expect a fast game. You prepare yourself to get up and down the ice. For whatever reason, I've been able to put some points up.”
Crosby put up three more points Sunday with a goal and two assists in the Penguins' 4-3 victory over the Sabres. He gave the Pens an early 2-0 lead and had an assist on Paul Martin's slapper from just inside the blue line with about two minutes remaining. Pittsburgh moved into first place in the Eastern Conference.
Sid the Kid has eight goals and 20 points in 13 career games in Buffalo. He has a point in 20 of 22 games, including 14 straight, against the Sabres overall. The Penguins have an 11-3 record over the Sabres during the streak. Crosby has seven goals and 24 points in 16 games this season, second only to Sabres winger Thomas Vanek's 25 points.
The Sabres have had so many problems over the years that it has been easy to overlook Crosby's brilliance against Buffalo. He was the guy who scored the deciding goal in the first Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium. He beat Ryan Miller in overtime to lift Canada over the United States for the gold medal in the 2010 Olympics.
Crosby couldn't completely explain his success against the Sabres in general or Miller in particular. It's just one of those things, as they say. He scored Sunday, but it wasn't as if he blew a 20-foot wrist shot into the top corner. He was hanging around the crease and nudged the puck over the goal line as if he were feathering pass to a toddler.
“I don't think that's because of Ryan Miller,” Crosby said. “I got a good bounce. I don't think I do anything differently here or against Ryan than I would anybody else.”
All these years later, with the Penguins having turned around a lost franchise and won a Stanley Cup, you can do little but sit back and wonder. Imagine how much the Sabres' fortunes might have changed if they won the draft lottery and come away with Crosby rather than watch him land in Pittsburgh.
Yes, it can be a painful and useless exercise, but it comes naturally when watching the Sabres wallow through another difficult season while the Penguins position themselves for another extended playoff run. Would the Sabres have won a Cup or two with Crosby? Could the Penguins have won without him?
We'll never know.
Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Columbus and the Rangers each had a 6.3 percent chance of landing Crosby in the 2005 lottery. Columbus ended up with Gilbert Brule, who played for three different teams before playing in Switzerland. The Rangers selected Marc Staal, a very good defenseman. The Sabres took Marek Zagrapan, who never played an NHL game.
Just because Crosby prospered with the Penguins doesn't necessarily mean he would have enjoyed the same success here. Evgeni Malkin, taken with the second pick overall in the previous year, is a major contributor to Pittsburgh's success. But there is no denying how much Sid the Kid meant to the franchise.
Crosby has 230 goals and 633 points in 450 games in the NHL. Last week, he became the fifth-fastest player to record 400 career assists. The Penguins have a new arena that was largely built on Crosby's back. They reached the Stanley Cup finals in back-to-back seasons, beating Detroit in 2009. He's the name and face of the NHL.
“There are very few players in the game, when you watch them, they do something at a different level than everybody else,” Pens coach Dan Bylsma said. “The players in practice and games, you see Sidney Crosby do something, you realize it's not ordinary. I don't think there's ever a time you take it for granted.”
Perhaps you have heard about Crosby's connection to No. 87, which began when he was born August 7, 1987. He wears No. 87, of course, and fittingly collects an $8.7 million salary for a full season. He even had a career plus-minus rating of plus-87 last week before scoring one goal and setting up two others against Ottawa.
But it gets a little ridiculous when Crosby decides to score 87 seconds into a game, which he did Sunday against the Sabres. He gave the Penguins an early 2-0 lead with a power-play goal before the Sabres battled back with three straight goals. Crosby started the play that led to the tying goal and set up the winner.
Somehow, he wasn't named one of the three stars. He didn't complain, assuming he noticed. The Penguins are rolling along with an 8-2 record on the road. The Sabres continue struggling with a 3-4-1 record at home. Crosby picked up three more points Sunday and left without looking back.
“I'm really happy,” Crosby said. “I was pretty fortunate that that's the way it worked out, to go to Pittsburgh, a great hockey town, a place where we happened to have a lot of young guys who were starting out at the same time. To grow with those guys, I feel pretty fortunate.”